Magazine article Politics Magazine

Dramatic Reform Is Coming: Voters This Year Have Very High Expectations-And They Will Demand Action

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Dramatic Reform Is Coming: Voters This Year Have Very High Expectations-And They Will Demand Action

Article excerpt

The numbers of Americans who feel that we as a nation are headed in the wrong direction, or that 'we're in a very serious crisis, are worse than during Watergate. At the same time, our president has achieved a record-low job approval (tied with Harry Truman and Richard Nixon) and Congress's approval hovers between 9 and 12 percent. Americans tell us they want a problem-solver, someone who can build consensus, is a competent manager, and has strong personal values.

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As a result, this election will usher in one of the few years of genuine reform. If we look at American history over the last hundred years, dramatic reform took place in only seven of those years. In 1913-1914, Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom created the beginnings of progressive change--an attempt, in part, to undermine the reform-minded Bull Moose candidate, former president Theodore Roosevelt. In 1933-- 1936, Franklin Roosevelt ushered in a comprehensive New Deal because he correctly sensed that the United States was at a point of political rebellion. In 1964-1965, Lyndon Johnson responded to race riots by launching his Great Society programs to fight poverty and racism.

So what's at stake now? Let's look at some numbers. In 1992, 92 million voters showed up at the polls to make their choice for president. By 2004, the number of voters reached nearly 123 million. In this election, we're projecting 132 million to 135 million voters--many of them, of course, first-time voting young people and minorities. These are voters with very high expectations. They demand action on the environment, health care, pension reform, energy independence and, of course, the economy.

Our next president won't want his name attached to inaction or failure that would dampen those high expectations.

What direction will his changes go in? It is truly hard to say. There's really very little consensus on the specifics, though actions like government spending for alternative energy and the creation of green-collar jobs have strong support across the board. But this is not a time to worry about specifics. Franklin Roosevelt did not campaign on a New Deal agenda; the New Deal actually was a patchwork of trial-and-error efforts after Roosevelt assumed office. …

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